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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2011/11/29
by Mike Gruenberg

45’s Picture Sleeves

In My Life
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to acquire some cool rock’n’roll memorabilia. It’s fun to collect items by my favorite musical groups & performers and then read the various collectors’ magazines to see what those autographs, pictures and vinyl are being sold for at auctions throughout the world. I recently found out that the dollar value that some collectors are willing to pay for vinyl 45 RPM picture sleeves is far more than I ever thought to be possible. Unbelievable, is actually the term I used!

In my youth, when deciding which records and how many to buy, the answer was based on both the music I wanted to buy and more importantly what my finances were. Do I buy a few 45’s for 99 cents each or an LP for $3.49? These were big and crucial choices for a music-loving teenager.

Clearly, record companies understood the dilemma of all music buying teenagers in deciding what to buy given the limited amount of funding available to someone of that age category. One way the record companies got their product to stand out more clearly at the record store was to house the latest 45’s in picture sleeves. Once the Beatles finally landed on the Capitol records label, virtually all of their releases came packaged in picture sleeves. By placing all the Beatles’ 45’s in picture sleeves, the record company used the first principal of marketing which is to “Create a need and fill it”. The record buying public now could choose between products that stood out more than those other 45’s that sat on the shelf in a plain cover with no picture. Also, it allowed Beatles fans to now “collect them all” and create a collectors mentality along with selling the 45. Given Beatles singles sales, Capitol was right on the money, The other most popular group at the time, the Rolling Stones followed suit and issued all their 45’s with picture sleeves, as well.

So what are some of these picture sleeves worth today for collectors? Let me preface this section by reminding everyone that a 45 cost anywhere between 99 cents and a $1.49 in the 60’s. Let’s take a look at an early Beatles release, “And I Love Her” and describe how it arrived at U.S. record stores so many years ago:

According to www.rarebeatles.com, the above listed record which was released on July 20, 1964 will bring $150. today if it is in near mint condition.

According to the same site, the Beatles picture sleeve worth the most money is “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

This one is reportedly worth $500 – $650 in near mint condition. However, before climbing up into the attic to sift through that dusty box of 45’s to see if you have this record, understand that this record was first issued in March of 1964, then reissued in 1968, 1969, (on Apple records) in 1971, then again in 1976 and 1978. All of those reissues necessitated minor changes to the label in both the information contained and color which subsequently alters the today’s dollar value of the record. In other words, any appraisal of this record sleeve needs to be done before you count the money. If you don’t have the original one from 1964, you probably will be disappointed.

Author Jeff Marcus who has written two books on record sleeves called “American Record Sleeves, Volumes 1 and 2” stated in a recent article in Goldmine magazine that the most valuable record sleeve today is the Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man”. Marcus explains that very few copies of this sleeve were produced which is one of the reasons why the price of this item is in the “five figure range”. Listed on the Bonham’s auction site this is a picture of the rare record sleeve that sold for US$17,080.

The reason for the scarcity of this sleeve is the fact that the record company was outraged over this picture and recalled as many of the copies as possible. This record was released in 1968 at the height of the furor caused by the violence surrounding the people in the streets demonstrating outside the Democratic Presidential nominating convention in Chicago. The police used excessive force on the young demonstrators. Unfortunately, for the Chicago police, that violence that was perpetrated on the demonstrators was viewed nightly on televisions around the world as reported on the evening news.

Of course, now that 45’s are relics of the past, the prices for these sleeves will only increase. I always knew that my collection of Beatles autographs would increase in value, but I never thought that the 45 picture sleeves would appreciate in value too.

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